10 Healthy School Lunch Swaps

Healthy school lunch ideas can be hard to come by. Parents often find they send their child off to school each day with the exact same lunch, especially so when they are dealing with a picky eater. Lunch menus at school are really no better. If your child chooses to buy a hot lunch at school, there is a good chance he or she will get something not all that healthy. Efforts have been made to improve school lunch options, but most schools are still way off course.

Luckily, there are plenty of healthy swaps you can make for common lunch choices that your child will barely notice. Even if you are dealing with the pickiest of eaters, these lunch recipes for school will satisfy. Best of all, these are easy, quick, and hold up well in a lunch box until the lunch bell rings.

Try swapping unhealthy lunch foods for the 10 Healthy School Lunch Swaps below:


  1. Potato Chips for Carrot and Celery Sticks
  2. White Bread for Whole Grain Bread
  3. Cookies for Cut Up Fruit
  4. Store-bought Granola Bars for Quinoa Protein Bars
  5. Candy for Trail Mix. Read about why we love nuts here.
  6. Ranch Dressing Low-Fat Bean Dip or Lemon Cumin Yogurt Dip
  7. Soda or Cow’s Milk for a Fresh Fruit Smoothie
  8. Lunch Meat Sandwich for Fresh Fruit, Veggie, and Hard Boiled Egg Medley
  9. Pretzels for Edamame
  10. Sandwiches for Avocados, Turkey, and Whole Grain Crackers

You know your child best, so you know which of these options will fly, and which will come home uneaten in the lunch box. The point is to mix things up and find creative ways to make your child’s lunch healthier. Whipping up a few batches of a homemade version of a store bought favorite is also a great idea. You eliminate the unhealthy ingredients found in processed foods, but your child assumes they are enjoying the same delicious fare as always.

Another great option is to involve your child in choosing food for his or her lunch. You can offer several options and let him or her make the final choice. A child might be reluctant to eat a healthy, unfamiliar selection if it just shows up in the lunch box, but if he picked it for himself, the experience might be considered an exciting adventure.

Introducing your child to healthy food can be a challenge, but it is something she will appreciate for the rest of her life. If you are looking for ways to boost the health of your child’s lunch, give these 10 swaps a try or come up with a few of your own and share them below!

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  1. It would be great if you had some "look alike" swap suggestions. I was expecting something like "homemade kale chips" as a substitution for potato chips.
    I have several picky eaters in my family and, while their lunch menus have a lot of the "better" options here, I was hoping to find some different options for "bad" foods that were similar in taste or texture (Edamame doesn't crunch like a pretzel, for example)

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